For a generation of twenty-somethings entering the workforce, 90’s nostalgia hits hard, but is often difficult to describe.
“I love that nostalgic feeling I get when I see art from an old game I used to play, or listen to a soundtrack from a show I watched when I was younger. I am very drawn to anything that takes me back to growing up in the 90’s.”
For real estate agent Elvin Ong, marrying his interests in digital art and Singapore’s housing estates led to a newfound passion project that’s earning him fans online.
On National Day, the 25-year-old released a series of pixel art cityscapes on Facebook. The colourful depictions of Singapore were well-received by the online community and were shared by hundreds of users.
“When I first came across pixel art in my poly days, I was captivated by the scenes of evening cityscapes and depictions of everyday life. They made me feel nostalgic for moments that I’ve never experienced.”
“It’s still a little hard to describe what that actually feels like!”
Rapid advancement of technology at the tail end of the millennium may have made our adolescent years feel further than they actually were.
Within a decade, our young, grubby palms traded Tamagotchis for Game Boys, Pokemon cards for @Cash cards, and dial-up modems for broadband connection. For the fortunate, each birthday gift quickly made last year’s toy obsolete.
“In my work, I try to capture this feeling with scenes that I grew up seeing, using a medium that makes it look like it could’ve come from a freeware PC game in the 90’s.”
Popspoken chats with the young artist about his process, his memories, and where he’s taking this passion project.
Popspoken: I notice a gap of about a month between the set-up of the Facebook page and your National Day release. Were you occupied with this project during that period?
Elvin: “I actually started working on my first piece roughly 5 months ago in my free time. I’ve been a licensed real estate agent for 2 years now, so I’m around houses quite a lot.”
“I created the Facebook page LVN93 after family and friends encouraged me to post my completed pieces online, but I had to go on a mid-year trip and I only returned on National Day. Quite naturally, I figured, ‘I might as well release the art on National Day when I’m back home!’”
PS: Tell us more about your artistic process.
E: “Inspiration hits in the most random of places. When I have an idea for a scene, I will first sketch it out on any piece of paper I can find. After that, I start with the black-and-white linework on Photoshop. The colours go on a layer on top of that.”
“At this point, I usually already know what I want animated, so I will create the sprites for the animation in a separate file. That’s pretty much it! I use Photoshop CS6 for all my work, including the animation.”
PS: Why choose this medium of pixel art GIFs?
E: “One of my favourite characteristics of pixel art GIFs are the subtle animations. It adds a layer of depth to a scene, like you’re actually standing there, in that exact moment.”
“You know that feeling right before you take a photo? Standing there, you feel like you want to remember that moment forever.”
“I feel GIFs capture this mysterious feeling very well. When you’re standing in the moment, there are subtle movements everywhere around you. Trees are swaying, clothes are drying on a bamboo pole, flapping in the wind. They can be animated in a GIF and it makes the scene come alive.”
PS: Growing up, how have you been involved with various forms of art?
E: “I first began using Photoshop about eight years ago when I entered the Temasek Polytechnic School of Design, where I studied Interior Architecture and Design.”
“I started drawing at a young age, and when I was old enough to use a computer, I played around a lot on MS Paint. I’ve always considered myself more creative than studious!”
PS: Tell us more about how you selected particular residential areas in Singapore to recreate in pixel form.
E: “So far, every piece that I have created contains scenes that I’ve seen growing up.”
“I’ve lived in Pasir Ris all my life! My family actually moved three times within the neighbourhood. There was a period of time when I was very young when I stayed with my aunt in Bedok, so I have very fond memories of that place too.”
“The Suntec City and The Gateway pieces are features on the Singapore skyline that always catch my attention when we drive to town for family dinners.”
“Synthwave Suntec was actually the first piece that I created. I love the ｖａｐｏｒｗａｖｅ ＡＥＳＴＨＥＴＩＣ ヅフ旺 going around online right now — over-saturated sunsets, pink and purple hues, lasers and neon lines everywhere. So, in that piece I tried to blend that aesthetic with the Suntec City towers, to try and capture the buildings in a light that we won’t see in real life.”
“Things in Singapore are changing rapidly. I tend to favour the older HDBs and office buildings that have been around for some time. They just bring an old charm that’s quite hard to describe.”
PS: Now that National Day has passed, where do you see yourself taking LVN93?
E: “I don’t really know, actually! Right now, it’s just a passion project and I’m really grateful for the love and support I’ve gotten from everyone.”
“My simple hope is to be able to continue creating art in my free time and share it with everyone.”
Find Elvin’s work on Facebook at facebook.com/LVN93art
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